Bangladesh's oldest brothel closed after pressure

DHAKA – Bangladesh's oldest brothel has been shut down following pressure from local clerics and politicians amid rising ‘conservatism’ in this South Asian country, police said on Monday.

More than 750 prostitutes in Tangail city were forced out of a cluster of houses that made up the 200-year-old Kandapara brothel after the dwelling's owners ordered them shut, an officer said. District police chief Saleh Mohammad Tanvir said the owners made the decision after Muslim clerics and civil activists staged a march last week demanding the eviction of the sex workers.

"(The house) owners of the brothel issued a notice ordering all the sex workers to leave the brothel. They left without any protest,” Tanvir said. Activists have shut down about a dozen brothels across Bangladesh in recent years including the largest at Tanbazar, outside the capital of Dhaka.

Prostitution is illegal in Bangladesh but the government has tolerated some brothels operating in the country. Monowara Begum, who heads a sex-workers group at Kandapara, accused the local mayor, a ruling party official, of ordering the closure and threatening the women with violence.

"He (the mayor) sent dozens of young men to the brothel on Saturday. Armed with sticks, they told us that we have only one hour to leave the place or they would burn down the brothel with kerosene. After that the owners started dismantling their houses," she said.

"The brothel's more than 773 girls were panicked. As they were leaving, their belongings such as televisions, fridges and furniture, which were loaded on seven trucks, were ‘looted’ by local people," she said. The mayor could not immediately be contacted for comment.

The Bangladesh chapter of British charity ActionAid, which works for the rights of local sex workers, said that the Kandapara brothel had been operating for about 200 years ago, set up during the British colonial era.



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